DISRUPTION EXPECTED: Bilsdale temporary mast date
Helicopters are transporting materials for the temporary Bilsdale mast, Image: LDRS
Disruption is expected when a temporary mast will be turned on at Bilsdale following a fire at the original transmitter which affected television reception for around 700,000 households.
The 80m-replacement mast will be turned on by Arqiva from lunchtime on Tuesday, October 5 and it is hoped that it will ensure TV signal for 630,000 households which equates to around 90% coverage.
However, that still leaves around 60,000 homes affected, though the outage does not impact those with a separate subscription box, like Sky or Virgin Media, so the number of households that will remain without TV is thought to be around 30,000.
Members of the public have been warned that there might be some disruption on Monday, October 4 as other temporary sites will need to be switched off for part of the day before.
The mast, situated on the North Yorkshire Moors, caught fire on August 10, 2021 and it is thought that it will need to be dismantled and a new permanent one erected in its place.
Chief of operations at Arqiva Adrian Twyning said: “First of all I would like to reiterate my apologies to all those who have been affected by the Bilsdale fire.
“Today I am announcing that we will be restoring TV coverage to 90% of the Bilsdale area and that is following the erection of the temporary mast here.
“We are due to deliver that by lunchtime on 5th October, the day before we are likely to have some disruption to services as we switch over but our plan is on track and as you can hear from the helicopters, we are moving with that plan and we are going to deliver.”
Over the coming days, a helicopter will perform around 230 lifts over the coming days, including moving some 200 x 750kg concrete blocks, as the new temporary mast takes shape.
Arqiva is continuing to work to ensure that signal reaches the final 10% of people without, however, it is not clear when that will happen.
Mr Twyning said: “We are also exhausting all technical solutions which means using our 16 relay sites in the locality to increase signal cover. We think that will also improve coverage, reducing that 10%.
“There will be some that will still be affected beyond October and what we are going to be doing is working with local government, housing associations, and charities, to make sure the most vulnerable in particular are supported when they don’t have TV coverage.”
The firm has faced criticism that the mast has taken longer to repair due to redundancies of experienced staff.
Mr Twyning responded: “We had a net reduction of 20 engineers in our engineering function against a workforce of nearly 1,400 and there has been no impact at all in our change of staffing levels or coverage in terms of our response plans.
“Our response plans were thorough and we have delivered those from day one. We had two engineers on-site who reported the fire to the fire brigade. We had a senior operation director who was on-site within hours, who then oversaw and kicked in our disaster recovery plans.”
Around 400,000 households were reconnected within ten days of the fire happening.
The BBC has said that some people may be eligible to claim a partial refund or an extension to their TV Licence, due to the outage.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
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